Because Whole Foods Beverly Hills does not have a liquor license, the popular store schedules their wine tastings down the street on the pleasant patio of the Crescent Hotel. This week the store sponsored a sunset hour sake tasting. Five sakes were poured and Melissa of the Japanese food and beverage distributor Mutual Trading Co., led a lively session on the basics of sake. I was most impressed with the Kikusui organic junmai ginjo (18.99 @ Whole Foods; Locali on Franklin Ave. also has it). Kikusui means chrysanthemum mist, which doesn't tell you much about its flavor, but is certainly poetic. From Niigata, known as the rice capital of Japan, I found it very light with a slight aroma of bananas. Melissa suggested drinking it early in a meal as it pairs well with appetizers. USDA certified, it is the first organic sake available for import (although many sakes do not have preservatives, this sake is made from pesticide free rice). The Shirakabegura (white wall) Tokubetsu junami can be drunk hot or cold and is well-balanced and can pair with heavier dishes. This sake comes from Takara, which also has a brewery in Berkeley. Our final sake was a nigori or coarsely filtered SCB creme de sake domestically brewed from Takara. Definitely on the sweet side, my fellow tasters thought it should be a desert sake and its ricey-ness conjured up a funny "rice-a-roni" comment. Hey, it was sake number five--people get a bit giddy.
There's a grand sake tasting after the Sushi Masters professional sushi competition this Sunday in Little Tokyo at the Aratani/Japan America Theatre. Sponsors include the California Rice Commission. California short grain rice is main ingredient in all U.S.-brewed sake!